Dear Friends and Neighbors,
On Monday, the Legislature convened its 2021 “remote” legislative session. I shared the House plan for the session with you in my last email update. Click here in case you missed it.
Legislators were on campus Monday to vote for Speaker of the House and vote on the proposed rules, House Resolution 4600, for this year's session.
Usually the rules are a mere formality, but with this year's rules requiring the legislative session to be conducted remotely on teleconferencing tools such as Zoom, it wasn't just a simple vote.
House Republicans expressed concern that not only could the minority party be left out of the process, but it could be tough on the public as well. Citizens will not be able to testify or meet with their representatives in person, and it will be more difficult to make their voices heard. Government is at its best when people are actively engaged and legislation can be openly debated and discussed. However, the rules passed on a party-line vote, 55-39. So, for the remainder of session the Capitol campus, and all the buildings will remain closed to the public.
In the other vote on Monday, House Democrats elected Laurie Jinkins as House Speaker on a party-line vote. Republicans supported Rep. J.T. Wilcox. You can watch his speech here.
Capital gains tax should not be a priority
While Republicans have been requesting a special session since April to help folks impacted by the coronavirus, one of the first items on the Democrats' agenda appears to be increasing taxes. Senate Bill 5096 would place a 9% income tax on capital gains as small as $25,000. The proposal was heard in the Senate Ways and Means Committee this week.
Republicans have introduced legislation to safely reopen Washington: Senate Bill 5114 as well as legislation to reign in the governor's emergency powers, House Bill 1029. These are just two pieces of legislation to move the state forward and ensure legislators from both parties and ALL corners of the state are involved in the decision making in the handling of the pandemic.
Republicans have been consistent in encouraging a safe reopening of our businesses and community activities. We have seen controlled environments such as gyms, restaurants and some schools that have reopened and there have been no outbreaks or data showing transmission of the virus has been a problem at these venues.
Our focus this session needs to be on getting people back to work, businesses back open and kids back in school. Our state does not have a revenue problem in which we need to be considering tax increases, especially the first week of session when it feels like we can be focused on so much else.
I will be serving on the same committees as I did last session, with one change. I have been selected as the lead Republican on the House Local Government Committee. I am honored to be leading our caucus on this committee in just my second term. My 16 years as a Chelan County Commissioner gives me a strong perspective on how our local entities view issues such as state agency rulemaking, performance audits and elections at the local level. I am hopeful we can bring more attention to the challenges of our local governments, including unfunded mandates, such as indigent defense, and rules and regulations imposed by state agencies.
I will also continue serving on the House Environment and Energy Committee. I view this as a good opportunity to be involved in energy and environmental policy coming out of the Legislature, especially given the abundant, low-cost power we have in North Central Washington. Legislation pertaining to the Growth Management Act, Shoreline Management Act, air quality, climate change, renewable energy standards and energy availability also comes before this committee.
My final committee assignment is the Transportation Committee, where will be discussing solutions and policy issues to improve our transportation system, and ensure the safe and efficient delivery of goods and services we rely on in our region. This is one of three budget committees in the Legislature. We will have some difficult decisions as our transportation budget is faced with diminished revenues. With the pandemic, fewer people are traveling, so we have seen a decrease in gas tax revenue as well as tolls and ferry fees collected.
Following the Legislature
As I mentioned in my previous email update, it is now more important than ever you stay involved as much as you can in the legislative process and hold your elected officials and state government accountable.
To ensure you have a voice in Olympia, I urge you to check out this website. It describes in detail how to remotely access the Legislative process in Olympia and contains many helpful links. Here is a link that will explain how you can utilize remote testimony to testify on legislation you may support or oppose.
The citizens of Washington need to stay engaged in the legislative process. Remember to check out these websites:
- The Washington State Ledger: This is a legislative news aggregator administered by state House Republicans. It is a great source for information related to state government, public policy and the legislative process. Check it out!
- Capitol Buzz: This daily electronic clip service offers headlines and stories from media outlets throughout the state, including newspaper, radio, and television.
- The Current: This an online legislative publication from the Washington House Republicans that is sent out every week during the legislative session.
- TVW: The state's own version of C-SPAN, TVW broadcasts floor and committee action live online. This will be an important tool with the session being “virtual.”
As always, please do not hesitate to contact me with any ideas, concerns or questions. It is an honor to represent the 12th District!